Lots of highs and lows this month. I read one of my favorite books of the year and one of my least favorites. Have you read any of these? I’m itching to get into a good mystery, so if you have any recommendations let me know!
- Exit West: A Novel, Mohsin Hamid, fiction
This was intriguing, and I felt sad and a little melancholy when I finished it. It is the story of Saeed and Nadia, a couple who flee their war-torn city through a few magical doors that transport them to different destinations. It feels a little like a commentary on our current refugee and migrant situation, and a little like an exploration into what it means to be human. Saeed and Nadia are very different. It was interesting to see the effects their situation had on each of them, both similarities and differences. The ending felt wistful and appropriate. I would be interested to read more from this author, as he has a distinct style.
- The Possessions, Sara Flannery Murphy, fiction
“Meh” is the word that comes to mind. Edie is the main character, and clients come to the business where she works to talk to their loved ones who have died. She’s a “body,” which means she channels said loved ones for the clients to speak to. She gets involved with one of her clients, and one of the people she channels ends up not letting go as willingly as she should. It reminded me a little of Stephenie Meyer’s story The Host. It was a little too creepy for me, and it kept building tension to what was supposed to be an unforgettable conclusion, but for me it fell flat. Also, I finished it last night and can’t remember exactly what happened at the end, so not quite unforgettable. To be fair, I was half asleep. Oops.
- From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg, fiction
This is a children’s book that was published somewhere around 50 years ago. I’m fairly sure I read it when I was younger. I don’t remember the story, but I think it’s where I learned the word “conspicuous.” It’s a very quick read, and a fun story about two children who run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. It’s fun to read as an adult and catch the asides that Mrs. Frankweiler writes to her lawyer, and there’s a very small twist at the end that I definitely did not see coming. It was an enjoyable read.
- The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, Michael Finkel, biography
Christopher Knight simply walked into the woods one day when he was twenty, and then lived completely alone for twenty-seven years. As a confirmed extrovert, this sounds like a nightmare to me. Knight survived by stealing food from nearby cabins and a camp, and was eventually caught by police during one of his raids. Finkel is a journalist who didn’t have any prior connection to Knight, but was intrigued by his story and began visiting him in jail. It was very interesting to read about how Knight survived on his own for that long, but by the end I was pretty bothered by how aggressively Finkel pursued him and his family to get the story. Knight asked him several times to leave him and his family alone, and it took Finkel quite a long time to comply with the request.
- Rules of Civility, Amor Towles, historical fiction
Maybe it’s because of the current fascination I have with New York City, but I loved this book. It follows the life of Katey Kontent in New York in 1938, and all the fascinating characters she comes in contact with during that year. It made me feel nostalgic for a time I never got to see, and it was fresh and delightful. I appreciated the way that every character’s arc wasn’t tied neatly with a little bow, but there were some questions left unanswered as they drifted out of Katey’s life. Nothing about it felt overdone – the dialogue was sharp and subtle. I enjoyed this more than any of the other books I’ve read so far this month.
- Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher, fiction
I’ll be honest, I read this because of the show coming out on Netflix. I nearly always like the book better, so I didn’t want to ruin it by watching the show first. If you aren’t familiar with the premise, a high school girl named Hannah Baker commits suicide, but before she does she creates cassette tapes explaining her reasons for doing so. She has 13 people she’s blaming for her decision to end her life, hence 13 reasons why. The tapes are to be passed around to the people mentioned in them, and the narrator, Clay Jensen, is one of them. It was suspenseful, and I found myself reading quickly to find out who the other people mentioned on the tapes would be and what happened. I enjoyed the back-and-forth narration between Hannah and Clay. Ultimately, I think the author tried to convey the point that we should be careful how we treat others because we don’t know how our actions are affecting them. I don’t think he went far enough in showing the kind of devastation that occurs when someone takes their own life, especially at that age.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket, fiction
Two confessions: 1) I also read this because I wanted to watch the show on Netflix, 2) I HATED this and will definitely not be watching the show. I get that the whole point is that their lives are miserable. I don’t have a problem with kids reading about difficult situations; in fact, I think it’s beneficial and helps them develop empathy. This article from Circe matches my own perspective on reading material for children. That’s not what this is. This is children being abused and neglected by every adult in their lives, completely and utterly alone, without any hope or anywhere to turn. The book acknowledges that these adults are evil, but the story is supposed to be witty and funny. It’s not funny. If you’re going to tell a story about child abuse, that’s not the way to do it. The one, literally ONE, redeeming quality in the book is the way it teaches vocabulary – helpful for kids who are normal humans and aren’t going to look words up in the dictionary when they don’t understand them. The copy I got from the library came in a pack with the second and third books in the series, but I’m not going to read them. I’m just disappointed I wasted my time with the first one.
- Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver, fiction
I’ve read this before, but I forgot that fact until I was several pages in this time. I decided to read it again anyway because I couldn’t remember the details. Sam Kingston is a high school senior who dies in a car crash one night, then spends the next seven days reliving the day she died over and over again. I enjoyed the book more this time around. It made me nostalgic for the times when your friends are your whole world. Friendship changes a lot as life moves forward, and there’s something special about the friends you make in high school.
- Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell, fiction
I’ve heard so many good things about this book, so my expectations were pretty high. That’s always a dangerous way to start a book. I liked it, but didn’t love it. Eleanor and Park were cute. Her family situation was heartbreaking, and I wanted to find out more about what happened to them at the end. Also, the POSTCARD. I hate not knowing for sure.
Reading Challenge Progress: 27/50 books completed.